Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Director: James Mangold
Screenplay: James Mangold, Scott Frank
Action/Drama/Sci-Fi, Rated: R
Running Time: 137 minutes
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Scott, didn’t I watch this movie in the 70’s when it was Logan’s Run?
Greg, you’re confused. This Logan is based on that witty 1960s TV series, Logan’s Heroes. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Let’s recap.
We’re reunited with Logan, aka Wolverine. It’s 2029 and he’s been reduced to driving a limousine for fares. The mutant race (and the X-Men) are all but extinct. He is taking what little money he has and is buying prescription drugs from an orderly in the parking lot of a hospital. He takes the pills to an abandoned factory where Caliban, an albino mutant tracker is tending house. The pills are for Dr. Xavier. He’s suffering from dementia. When an episode hits, it sends out mental shockwaves that paralyzes anyone nearby – to the point of being deadly.
One day Logan is approached by a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse who is caring for a “special” set of children. She has one of those kids with her, an 11-year-old named Laura (Dafne Keen). Gabriela asks Logan to take Laura to a place in North Dakota named Eden, where Laura will be safe. Logan refuses this request, but soon changes his mind when Gabriela is killed by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his men who harbor ill-intentions for mutants like Laura.
Scott, Logan is a film for adults more than children. So much so that it is rated ‘R’ by the MPAA. It is darker than most Marvel films as it features more blood and adult language than its predecessors. And I think it makes the film better. Logan deals with existential issues like death, aging, and suicide. These are heavy topics for an audience that is often made up of both children and adults. And while the film got an adult rating, there were many children in the theater that I was in.
There is an alternative Logan in this film as well. Dubbed as “X-24” – this is a younger clone of Logan. But unlike Logan, X-24 is filled with blind fury and does the bidding of the evil Dr. Zander Rice. The special effects here are stunning. We saw this last year in “Captain America: Civil War” where we see a young Tony Stark. The young Logan is a digital creation based on earlier images of Logan from previous films. It’s an amazing recreation.
Logan is indeed an impressive movie, not just in its CGI effects but most notably in the areas of storytelling, acting, and character development. It’s an X-Men tale surprisingly rich in exploring the nature of these characters, their history, and their ever-evolving relationships. This is Hugh Jackman’s most complex and effective portrayal of Wolverine. He delivers his best performance as an X-Man, playing a mutant on a mission who assists another younger mutant on a mission.
Going into the theater, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, having been less than dazzled by previous installments of X-Men and Wolverine. But Logan moved me. A big reason is young actor Dafne Keene, whose face can express a thousand emotions and whose overall performance here is astonishingly good. Another shout-out goes to Patrick Stewart whose character is dying yet remains fully committed to educating his students and developing their characters to the very end.
As a hero, Logan is great. He is at the lowest point in his life. All his friends are dead and his mentor is dying. He’s given a “call to adventure” by Gabriella to take Laura to Eden. And as classic heroes do, he refuses the call. He doesn’t want to get involved. But when Gabriella is killed and Laura follows Logan back to his lair, he becomes an unwilling guardian of the girl.
And we see him come to care about the girl and her friends. Ultimately, he makes the ultimate sacrifice. And we see a type of hero that we rarely see in movies anymore – the martyr. We saw this in 2013’s Elysium where Matt Damon’s character gives his life to save a young girl.
There’s a danger in creating a martyr – the viewer is walking in the hero’s shoes. And when the hero dies, so does the viewer. So, when the hero dies it must be for a cause that is greater than himself. And Logan makes that sacrifice. He is the last of the X-Men and he trades his life for a new generation of mutants. It’s a worthy sacrifice and one that the viewer can buy into.
Well said, Greg. Also, let’s not forget that Logan is dying from Adamantium poisoning. Yet he makes sacrifice after sacrifice. This movie really taps into the archetype of the aging, diminishing hero who is called to muster up his former powers in service of a great cause. It was jolting to see the CGI effect of a younger, stronger Logan battling his aging counterpart. I continue to be impressed by Marvel’s ability to create new compelling variations of the ancient conflict between good and evil.
Let’s examine the transformations in this film. Logan is physically transformed by the Adamantium, and Professor Xavier is mentally transformed by his dementia. Emotionally, Logan transforms from pure bitterness about his plight to developing a caring compassion for the fate of Professor Xavier and the young mutants, especially Laura. And Laura herself transforms from an angry mute young girl to a vocal, passionate hero of the mutant cause. With this movie, Marvel really showcases its understanding of the elements that go into effective hero storytelling.
Absolutely. Transformation is at the heart of storytelling. Marvel writers understand this and give us stories about people, relationships, and how they change. It’s a stark difference from what we see coming out of the DC universe. There, the stories are about special effects and the story falls to the wayside. Marvel gives us both action and transformation. It’s a gratifying experience.
Logan is a great story told well. We’ve come to expect a lot from Marvel films and they deliver. I give Logan 4 out of 5 Reels. As a hero, Logan steps up to the challenge and shows us how a hero can give his all. I give Logan 4 out of 5 Heroes. And you can’t get much better than 3 transformations in one story. As you point out, Logan, Professor Xavier, and Laura all undergo transformations that resonate with the audience. I give them 5 Transformation points out of 5.
Logan is the most compelling installment of the X-Men franchise in many years. The keys to its success lie in a terrific screenplay, a stronger than usual performance from Hugh Jackman, a striking performance from newcomer Dafne Keen, and several powerful transformations among the main characters. The genius of Marvel in understanding heroic storytelling is on full display here. I award this film 4 Reels out of 5.
We have a pair of buddy heroes here in Logan and Laura. They are an unlikely pairing and start out disliking and distrusting each other. With mentoring from Professor Xavier, Logan develops an understanding and appreciation for Laura and her cause. Logan’s hero’s journey contains all the classic elements, including a surprise element of the ultimate sacrifice of his own life at the end. Marvel knows that martyrdom is an archetype of deep significance in our culture (Jesus, MLK Jr, and Gandhi are notable examples). Laura’s journey is also powerfully inspiring. These two heroes earn the full 5 Hero points out of 5.
Our two heroes’ transformative journeys are emotionally and physically complex, and satisfying. Logan’s emotional growth helps compensate for his physical deterioration. Laura gains courage and develops into a leader of the young mutants. Even Professor Xavier shows heroic courage and grit in fighting his disease and mentoring our heroes. I award this film 4 Transformation points out of 5.